My 4-year-old daughter is becoming quite the little pray-er in our family. More often, she will skip over the routine table grace or bedtime prayer and say something all on her own. “Father – thank you for our food. Thank you for our family. Thank you for food.” She doesn’t over-think it; she speaks what is in her heart and her mind in that moment – which is what prayer is really supposed to be. A constant, casual link to God!
Thankfully, we are also moving past this phase where our kids would fight about who could say the prayer before every single meal time. It was infuriating! You are completely missing the point! We actually had to revoke “prayer privileges” at meals – which sounds like such a ridiculous thing to suggest! But we needed something drastic to refocus on why we bothered to say a prayer before meals in the first place!
One night this week, I leaned in close to my daughter in her darkened room for the last phase of the bedtime routine: prayers. (This precedes the 12 “one-last” hug and kiss fiasco we experience nearly every night…) I began to speak her normal, nightly prayer: “Father, thank you for creating me…”
But she interrupted me.
“I don’t want to do that one.” she declared. She said a little prayer, thanking God for food, family and her dolls. Then “Amen!” It was very sweet.
I tucked her hair behind her ear, touched my palm to her smooth cheek and leaned in to kiss her forehead. “A beautiful prayer.” I say. I ask if she understands that prayer is talking to God, and that God loves it when we talk to him. She considered this for a moment. This is not new information – we’ve prayed with her since the day she was born. But I could see that this just-turned 4-year-old brain was processing the information differently.
Her eyes quickly darted around the room. She asks, “Where is God?”
Oh, what a wonderfully innocent yet deeply theological question! I tell her that God is everywhere, with each of us, all the time. Simple enough, right?!
I’m met with a blank stare. Then, “Is God at church?”
Apparently my response was insufficient! We went back and forth on this for a little while. She tried to pry a finite answer out of me, and I stuck with my ‘God is everywhere all the time’ response.
Two years ago I wrote “Questions, Questions, Questions – But I’m no Theologian!” about my son, then 5 almost 6 and full of questions. It is surreal how quickly time has passed! I am now having similar discussions with my youngest child – in the same loft bed, the same darkened bedroom.
Playing a part in this early formation of faith for my kids is amazing; a blessing beyond comprehension! As they continue to grow and learn, I wonder which conversations they’ll remember. Will it be the same moments I write about now, or some random experience I’m unaware of?
As parent, it is not our ability to correctly answer their questions or lay out a structure of exactly what faith must look like that is most important. Our job as parent is to teach them that faith, a deepened connection to God and the ability to discern how God is at work around us is a life-long journey. A journey to continue through all stages of life, filled with many questions and discussions along the way. And most importantly, lots and lots of prayer!
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18